Jason Van Dyke returning to court for first time since being found guilty

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Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke arrives at the Leighton Criminal Courts Building where he is standing trial for the homicide of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald on September 5, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Former Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke returned to court Wednesday for the first time since a jury convicted him in the 2014 shooting death of black teenager Laquan McDonald, as his attorneys launched their effort to persuade a judge toss the verdict.

Van Dyke, who was wearing a suit and tie when he was last in court on Oct. 5, walked in from an inmate holding area wearing a yellow jail-issued jump suit and jail-issued slippers. During his few minutes standing with his attorney in front of the judge, he never appeared to look toward his wife and father, who sat among the spectators.

Van Dyke's attorney, Dan Herbert, announced that he had filed requests for a new trial or an acquittal, and Judge Vincent Gaughan scheduled oral arguments for Dec. 14. 

In one motion, Herbert reiterated an argument he first made in 2015 when dashcam video of the shooting was released to the public: that it would be impossible to find a fair and impartial jury in Cook County, where Chicago is located. The video shows McDonald crumpling to the ground in a hail of 16 bullets as he walked away from police.

He said news stories "cemented a narrative of guilt in the public consciousness." He also pointed to negative comments on social media in which Van Dyke, who is white, was described as a "racist murderer" and someone who "looks like the devil."

Herbert also reiterated his contention that Van Dyke had a right to use deadly force when confronted with a suspect who was armed with a knife and resisting arrest. 

The jury, however, rejected that argument when it convicted Van Dyke of one count of second-degree murder along with 16 counts of aggravated battery with a firearm. 

Gaughan did not set a date for sentencing. Legal experts differ on whether the judge can order him to serve sentences for each count concurrently or must order then served consecutively. It could be the difference between a sentence of six years or several decades.